We’re in agreement on the top 3 in the West. I put the Lakers at the #4 seed, followed by Denver, New Orleans, Portland and dropped OKC to #8, because they have to play 3 on 5 offense with non-scoring threats like Schroder (.320 3P%), Grant (.301 3P%), and Ferguson (.333 3P%).
Even though I have Golden State, Houston and Utah as the top three seeds, I have doubts about each team. I almost had the Clippers as the #8 seed, but couldn’t see them beating out OKC or Portland. And Minnesota without Butler is a lottery team.
NBA Western Conference Predictions
We know how it all ends, but there will be some interesting twists and turns
I think the Lakers young core will be too hungry to disprove their critics and take off nights to slip to a 6 or 7 seed. It really won’t matter if they lose to the Warriors in the first, second or third round of the playoffs. These guys want to play the best, even if the fans would prefer that they win a couple of playoff series.
If the are fortunate enough to play Houston instead of Golden State in the playoffs, I would pick the Lakers to win. They match up well against Houston.
Last year, the Lakers beat the Rockets in their first game, with the four young guys and Andrew Bogut as starters, while Houston played Harden, Paul, Ariza, Nene and Anderson.
In the second one, the Lakers blew an 11-point 4th quarter lead to lose in double overtime featuring a starting lineup of Ingram, Kuzma, Hart, Randle and Tyler Ennis, 30+ minutes from Corey Brewer and about 20 minutes of Clarkson and Nance. Houston played Harden, Paul, Ariza, and Gordon over 40 minutes, Capela for 32, and Tucker, Green and Anderson for 20+.
In the third game, a loss, they started Hart, KCP, Randle, Lopez and Caruso, while Houston played Harden, Paul, Ariza, Capela and Tucker.
Is it crazy to think exchanging Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance, Corey Brewer and Andrew Bogut for LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, Javale McGee, Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley makes the Lakers worse?
Meanwhile, Houston exchanged their best two perimeter defenders for Carmelo and MCW.
Let the games begin.